Making prints is not a race. Once you mentioned portfolio quality you set the clock to "off".
Unless the final print is to be hung next to the fixer tray (or in comparable lighting), doing the wet Vs. dry comparison at the fixer/holding tray doesn't give a satisfactory result.
The fixer tray evaluation will be all wrong if the light where the print is to be hung is brighter than the evaluation lighting - because if this is the case the final print may need to be made darker and at a slightly lower contrast.
Ideally you would take a set of dry test prints to the hanging location and evaluate them there. In loco muro I take the dry test print, slip it in a frame with glass and place it in various places around the house and see what I think of it. Glass alters the look of a print, as does a large white surround (I don't bother with a mat - just tape the print in place to the glass and slip some foam core in behind it).
The amount of dry down correction changes with the print contrast as a 10% change is a very different thing at grade 4 and grade 1. It also changes with the tone of the focal point of the print - a print where deep shadows are where the action is and a print of a sunlit waterfall need different correction.
If you are going to hang a show in a gallery and aren't sure what to expect the I suggest going in after hours and doing a test hang with some evaluation prints.
I've quite given up on applying a simplistic constant dry-down correction to all prints - I just don't think it works. After years of monkeying around with it I now find that no correction seems to work best for me for a majority of my work - but then I now use a reflector flood for the evaluation light.
A better solution to drydown compensation might be adjustable illumination at the print evaluation tray.
Last edited by Nicholas Lindan; 12-20-2010 at 09:59 AM. Click to view previous post history.
if you are going to do it for a living then get a paper processor - they are rediculously cheap. I've seen Ilford 2150's with dryers for less than $300 - this means the dry to dry time for a 8x10 print is around 70 seconds...
I used to run a B&W lab/studio, and did a bit of portraiture. I could print a portrait from start to finish in under 10 minutes - that includes a test print, and then maybe 2 prints if I wanted a "perfect" print.
I used a Multigrade 500 head on a old Polaroid MP4 copy stand so I could split print if needed (usually didin't have to - if you find you are split printing everything you shoot then you need to fine tune your negs..). I used fairly short print times - 8-15 seconds, and found I could easily dodge - 1-1/2 stops with ease...and I never used the built in meter as I found once my negs were consistant the exposure didin't vary that much..
Modern RC papers are great, and you can produce great prints on them...I used to keep a couple of different brands on hand to get the results I wanted..
One helpful hint (that was taught to me by an old photographer who came into the darkroom one day for a chat..) - what you see as a perfect print may not make a difference to your client. I was printing a photo for one of my regular customers, and he picked up my reject print and commented on how good it was.
I told him it was my reject print - and showed him my final print.
He held them side by side, and asked me why I'd made another print? I showed him the difference (which to me was major), and he agreed my final print was better - but if I hadn't shown him the differences between the prints he would never have spotted them...
That taught me an important lesson. Unless you are being paid hundreds of dollars for a single 8x10 you need to make good prints. A person gets what they paid for - and your good prints are probably better than 99% of peoples perfect prints..........
If you want an idea of what an "acceptable professional" print is send a negative you hav eprinted to a local, well respected lab and ask them to make a custom B&W print. Compare it to your print, and note what the differences are...
It's not easy to say that a print is "OK", but if you want to make money you need to know where to set the bar.....
I kind of wonder about some of the responses. "Portfolio Quality Print", figure an hour. I paid $25 for Portfolio prints made by a master printer (I would call him that, he would do a work print and then we would spend a half hour or so discussing what it needed), but that was back in 1980, or there about. One of the big name photograpers said that anyone who sold an 8x10 for less than $100 was a scab. Any bets on the name and date?
Salon quality prints figure a half hour each.
Commercial quality prints figure 10 minutes.
Work prints take about 3 minutes, work prints are about the same quality you get at walmart.
A work print in included in the times above.
Times are to the point where the print is ready to be matted and framed.
Times are for printing the first print, only proofs being done prior.
Times are for custom hand enlarged chemical prints from negatives.
I suspect that the OP was really thinking of commercial grade prints, however.
A portfolio print is usually a one off print, so you do not save time by making multiples prints.
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It really depends on the negative and what you want to do with it. I'd say an average time for me to make one copy of a print on RC paper is somewhere around 30 minutes, not including setting up and tearing down the chemicals, or drying the print. (As I said, that is an average time. Some take 20 and some take 40, in other words.) It takes me about twice as long or even longer with fiber paper, as I am usually very careful and follow an archival process. I also usually make at least three copies if I am printing fiber, since it is more hassle and time than with RC to do reprints.
I do think that RC prints can be fine in portfolios. There are some portfolios in which I would specifically avoid the use of fiber paper. As always, it depends on the details. Who will see the portfolios, and for what purpose? Will they be returned? What do the viewers call for in a portfolio? Etc....
I do not think that you can call something that needs spotting "portfolio quality," however.
Ilford makes a double-weight RC paper, which might appear more professional than single-weight RC.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)